Artist Arthur Bispo do Rosario’s elaborate embroidered designs have translated into an equally compelling creation by Mimulus, that most enthralling and energetic contemporary ensemble from Brazil.
Making their way to Jacob’s Pillow as the opener for the dance festival’s 80th anniversary season, the company performed the U.S. premiere of Artistic Director Jomar Mesquita’s “Por Um Fio” or “By a Thread.” The evening-length work, a marvel of seamless samba, tango and street dancing, was spellbinding.
Everything about “Por Um Fio” was captivating. The set design, by Ed Andrade, was inspired by the tapestries of Rosario and the psychiatric hospital where he stitched together most of his artistic life for 50 years. Made from discarded bed sheets and scraps of cloth, Rosario’s imaginative creations were intricate, sometimes flamboyant and sometimes understated.
WHEN: 8 p.m. today, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Jacob’s Pillow, 358 George Carter Road, Becket, Mass.
HOW MUCH: $64, $59 and $39
MORE INFO: (413) 243-0745, www.jacobspillow.org
Andrade enhanced the atmosphere with multiple bare light bulbs and a tangle of threads that hovered over the dancers’ heads, instantly thrusting the viewer into a world conflicted by beauty and austerity.
Then there was the dancing, which was divine. Four couples, with Mesquita and Juliana Macedo as the centerpiece, inhabited this raveling and unraveling dance more fully and naturally than any dancers possibly could. Moving mostly in duets to an eclectic blend of songs — from Chopin to Freeworm — the dancers pulled threads from the backdrops that freed them as well as entangled them.
The pairings, with or without the reams of fiber, amazed with their knotted complexities that fluidly unfolded. Andrea Pinheiro rolled her head up and under the arm of her partner Rodrigo de Castro. Mesquita and Macedo linked hands in a dance of the arms that was a knockout.
And then there were the lifts. Some were straight-up and simple, but most included the women wrapping and flinging their bodies around the men’s necks or snaking down their spines. While most dancers would struggle to make these moves look natural, Mimulus did it with ease.
While the dance was liquid, there were times it was also aggressive — with the men tossing about the heads of their partners so the women would bend over backward. But all the dancers were so strong and capable, there was no sense of threat or violence — only an awe of their rebound.
The dancers also had fun — outdoing each other in demonstrating their strength. Murilo Borges, a tall, meaty man, was able to hold five other dancers at once. And though he was larger than most, he too moved with incredible grace.
Mesquita and Macedo, as his muse, were glorious.
Toward the end, they engaged in a yeasty tango, which ended with Macedo wrapped and tethered in ropes — symbolizing Rosario’s captivity by art and circumstances. But there were no regrets here, only a celebration of a life that saw what was beautiful and possible in the ordinary.
There is nothing ordinary, however, about Mimulus. This is a rare ensemble that takes the dance that beats in their hearts and souls and serves it up with a purity and passion that is surprising and infectious.